Monday, February 02, 2009

Michael Steele: Trendy or Substantive?

After one of the most contested races for GOP Chairman in years, Michael Steele was chosen to lead his party. Why anyone would want that job is beyond me, but he pursued it with a vengeance and he now has the post.

The question many will ask is, why was he chosen. Is he the GOP's answer to Barack Obama? Are they saying, as a party, that "we can choose a black man too"? There is no doubt that he is an articulate and successful African American who certainly has the biography that is worthy of the post, but is he the best person for the party in the times we are in today?

Pros of Steele

The new media is playing a bigger role in politics now than ever and that is only expected to grow. Steele is a huge fan of social networking websites (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) and used them even towards the goal of getting elected as Chairman of the party.

Furthermore, he is extremely articulate and conveys an image of the Republican Party that most people simply have not seen else where, but certainly needs portrayed if it is going to be anything more than a minor party. When Steele discusses the needs of minorities and issues of importance to them, it resonates in a very sincere way.

Cons of Steele

We keep hearing that the former Lt. Governor of Maryland is very "conservative." This is one of the statements that demands an asterisk or a disclaimer. He is "conservative" by media standards and the reporters who interview him. He is "conservative" by African American standards, which is a population that tends to be over whelming liberal. He is "conservative" by Maryland standards, which is one of the most liberal states in the union. He is not nearly as conservative, however, as the rank and file of his party that is crucial in electoral success.

The biggest problem facing the GOP is that it is becoming increasingly like "Democrats Light." Republicans are socialist, they are just not as socialistic as Democrats. We are soft on social issues, just not as liberal as Democrats. Some where along the way Republicans became convinced that the big thing the GOP can do is be a "softer" version of the Democrats. That is what the media, which is clearly in the Democrats pocket, has encouraged for years.

The GOP has always enjoyed its biggest level of success when it acted more like Republicans than Democrats. The stronger the positions that the party has enjoyed on free markets (particularly taxes), strong defense, and pro family, the greater the electoral wins. I believe Republicans need to restore its Reagan roots and becoming the party of success it use to be. I don't know if Michael Steele can help the GOP reach that objective.

Kevin Price is a syndicated columnist whose articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media. Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review. Hear the show live and online at PriceofBusiness.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

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